Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Greatest Hits 2014

Best Book
 
Vägen Till Balberget - Therese Söderlind
Not a very good year for books, though... Mostly rather mediocre reading. 
I'll try to do better next year.


Best TV Show
The Leftovers

Competition was fierce in this category! Louie, Masters of Sex, The Newsroom, The Good Wife, Real Humans, Girls, House of Cards, Sherlock Holmes, True Detective, The Big C.... 


Best Music
Shaka Ponk live at the Zenith de Paris. 


 Best Film
'Her' - Spike Jonze

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Market, Strasbourg

To round up what this year has turned into a fairly extensive tour of nearby Christmas markets, I spent last week-end roaming Strasbourg's car-free, picturesque city centre, going from market place to market place, guzzling mulled wine and warm orange juice (tastier than it sounds!) to maintain a decent body temperature.

On sale were Christmas trinkets, gingerbread in various shapes, chocolate, sausages and anything else you'd expect from that sort of place.
It was all very pretty and felt genuine despite the hoards of tourists. 
The snowfall and the biting cold may have helped.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Det Lömska Nätet - Helene Tursten

At first, I cringe with embarrassment at the pathetically lousy writing.

Then, I get caught up in the plot, my brain logs out and I spend a couple of hours wrapped up in the action.

After I have finished, I am slightly nauseous as if I'd had way too much chocolate (Come to think of it, that might also actually be the case...). 
My final conclusion is that if I do want to read detective stories in the future, I should at least focus on the good stuff and skip crap like this.



Saturday, December 27, 2014

Trollvinter - Tove Jansson

The discrepancy between Jansson's Moomin books and the Japanese film adaptation is very much the same as what sets Laura Ingalls's Wilders 'Little House on the Prairie'-classics apart from Michael Landon's horrendous TV series : The characters and the setting are the same, but the soul is gone.

In this book, Moomin wakes up in the bleak of winter, while the rest of his sensible family is hibernating, dismayed at the snowy landscape and its hitherto unknown inhabitants.
Beautiful illustrations, to boot.








Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Marriage Plot - Jeffrey Eugenides

Classic 'marriage plot' authors include personal favourites Charlotte Brontë and Jane Austen. It would make sense, therefore, that undeniably talented Eugenides came up with something appealing, especially as I enjoyed both his previous novels, 'The Virgin Suicides' and 'Middlesex'.

Yet, regrettably, Eugenides is little more than a talented bestseller-writer who so far has shown nothing of the genius significant of a Brontë or an Austen. And this 'Marriage Plot' isn't even anywhere near as entertaining as any of Eugenides's above-mentioned opuses.

A bit of a letdown, then, even though I did duly and automatically apply the low (even almost 'no') expectations-principle.



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Very Bad Blagues - Palmashow

As per usual with comedians at Canal + and those favoured by my offspring, some of the stuff is absolutely hilarious, while some so intensely dimwitted I don't see how anyone can shamelessly appear on TV uttering it. It's the mix that does it, I suppose.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Klondike

Much to my surprise, it turns out I prefer Ridley Scott as a television producer (OK, I've only seen 'The Good Wife' but I do dote on that one!) to Ridley Scott as a film-director.

This instructive yet dramatic mini-series about a young golddigger contained pretty images, endearing characters and that little je ne sais quoi that made my ten-year-olds sit through it with me.

 

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Newsroom, season 3

The third season is said to be the final and was also sadly super-short - only six episodes - which is doubly sad as 'The Newsroom' is still just as engrossing and entertaining, though admittedly perhaps not cutting-edge, as in episode one.



Sunday, December 14, 2014

Lucia, Swedish Curch of Paris

The original Lucia was a pre-medieval Sicilian saint, symbolising light.
The Swedish version contains singing young ladies clad in white, carrying candles on what used to be the longest night of the year, December 13th.

We expats being particularly attached to traditions of our homeland, I drag along kids & hubby to the Swedish Church of Paris every year it's not too inconvenient, to listen to a melodious but shamelessly overpriced choir.

This year was pretty much as usual, except that the repertoire consisted mostly of psalms and proselytizing poetry which made us feel a bit like 19th century Africans in need of religious salvation.


438 Dagar - Schibbye & Persson

In 2011, two Swedish freelance journalists (well, one of them a photographer to be precise) travelling into Somalia to investigate the dealings of a Swedish oil company were shot at and eventually imprisoned by Somali government.

This is their first-hand account of the whole event, from their departure from Stockholm, through their capture, their subsequent trial and the fourteen months they spent in the jail from hell. Feelings of exposure, fear, anger and above all frustration described by well-articulated and knowledgeable professionals but also human beings. Great read!


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas - Michael Bublé

Cosy! Highly similar to Frank Sinatra's Christmas recordings, which is probably what Bublé was after and quite the compliment, actually!



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Le Père Noël Est Une Ordure, Théatre T. Bernard, Paris 8th arrdt

To have billions of people (the play is old and hugely successful) rolling down the aisles laughing at suicide, poverty and depression takes a helluva witty dialogue, of which a whole generation in France knows large chunks by heart. 

Not having grown up in France, however, I am not one of those you could wake up at three a.m. to have me quote the cultissimo lines of the help-centre employees in the play. 
Nor can I with any accuracy compare this new set-up with the original one (1979) or the film (1982). 

What I can tell you, though, is that both me and my seventeen-year-old were in stitches most of the time, especially when the actors lost it and broke out laughing at each other. 
Wildly enjoyable!


Monday, December 8, 2014

The Hunger Games; Catching Fire - F. Lawrence 2013

A recent Swedish study showed Western youngsters today tend to take democracy for granted and consider voting, for instance, as more of a chore than a privilege.
In that light, I guess any opus encouraging them to consider the options to universal suffrage is probably a good idea.

Quite possibly, this might also be a good film. 
It didn't do it for me, but I don't feel at all like its target audience, and my teenager was enthralled, so...



Sunday, December 7, 2014

Christmas Market, Swedish Church in Paris

Certainly less jazzy than the Champs Elysées Market (also strangely a lot less crowded than usual) this is the place we expats buy candy (when there is any left, as was not the case today...), hot dogs, mulled wine, candles, dill-flavoured potato chips and Swedish Christmas decorations.


Colourless Tsukiri Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage - Haruki Murakami

Again, in Murakami : Memories, returning into the past, girlfriends, a man coming of age, that otherworldly atmosphere, certain slightly surreal events, predominant dreams... 
This was not quite 'Norwegian Wood' but definitely some distant, modernized cousin.

Yet, Murakami being himself, this was a pleasure; simultaneously light and elaborate, and very idiosyncratic.

 




Saturday, December 6, 2014

Black Sails, season 1

This was solid, nuanced, humorous and beautifully lit (some shots could almost be taken for an oil on canvas from the Dutch Golden Age). 
In short, pleasant enough.

It was also, however, rather conventional; and what with all the 'Louie', 'Masters of Sex' and 'Girls' I have been following recently, I have unfortunately come to expect a bit more than "pleasant enough".

I quit after a couple of episodes.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Främlinsleguanen - Martina Montelius

A first-person narrative about a four-year-old abandoned by her parents with an iguana as sole company - No way in hell would I ever have come close to reading this had I not been offered it as a present (thus given no real choice..!).

And it would indeed have been a pity to miss out on this very peculiar novella about loneliness and exposure, written in an elaborate, near-Nabokovian style, altogether incompatible with the interior monologue of a young child.

Strangely, that was part of the book's genius. Looking forward to Montelius's next opus, as this is only her début.   


Sunday, November 30, 2014

En Av Oss - Åsne Seierstad

Seierstad is a multiple award-winning Norwegian journalist, specialized in reporting from war-zones.
This is her scrutiny of Anders Breivik, the man who placed a bomb in the Oslo government buildings before gunning down 70 youngsters at the Worker's League youth camp, in 2011.

Thoroughly researched and masterly penned, the strength of this opus is that it deals not only with Breivik, his childhood and inner thoughts, but also with the victims and with Norway as a whole.
Excellent read!


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Monster House - G. Kenan, 2006

You think this is a kid's film, but there is no coming-of-age story anywhere in sight, so probably not. 
Classic horror film plots, like this one (it's all pretty much in the title!), are few and far between in kid's films, probably because it's scary for real; at least to some of us!


Friday, November 28, 2014

Louie, season 4

The fourth season has a lot less laughs in it than the first three : Louie is in looove, and the poster fully well illustrates the leap of faith implied.

Mr CK continues to blatantly disrespect basic tenets of TV sitcoms (characters come and go, episodes are of various length, some events are so surreal you wonder whether you are supposed to believe in them or not...) very much to the benefit of his show.

Brilliant TV! Brilliant!


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Listen - David Guetta

Even to a dilettante like myself, most DJs - like most other artists - have their little idiosyncrasies. Guetta's distinctive traits, however, are tough to pin down.  

It might be that sounding mainstream and bland is actually what characterizes his music. That is certainly how this brand new album sounds, and that's despite the fact that it is more personal that what he has done before..!

It is, however, quite adequate music to run to and also, I suspect, to dance to.

Plus, kudos to Guetta for his enthusiasm! No falsely detached, cool-dude attitude here!


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Le Bal des Vampires, Théâtre Mogador, Paris

 This is the musical set-up of Polanski's 1967 film : Jim Steinman - king of bombastic rock music - has conceived the music and Polanski himself has directed this Parisian stage version, attacking his first on-stage musical at the age of 81. (At least his first to the best of my knowledge - not counting 'Amadeus'. Polanski is terribly hard to keep track of, though!)

I found the show just as extravagant, colorful, professional, playful and electrifying as I had hoped for; it ended befittingly with a standing ovation from the audience.

(Sexual innuendo was indeed heavy, but I think possible to ignore by present children.)




Friday, November 21, 2014

Champs Elysées Christmas market

If you want handicraft items, a genuine sense of old-fashioned yuletide or a spiritual sense of the reason for the season, then perhaps you should check out the markets in Strasbourg or Stockhom instead of this one.

At the Champs Elysées, you will find shamelessly over-priced candy, high quality streetfood and potential presents in abundance.

I suppose it's all just a matter of knowing what you're after.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Och Ett Skepp... - Bodil Malmsten

Like many other Swedes I am very fond of ageing writer Malmsten (despite having never read a line of her poetry) as I have been of the previous parts of her life's logbook. 

Here, she has returned from France to Stockholm and is meditating on what has become of her home country.

The problem with being ageing and discontent is that it's terribly hard not to sound like an old schnock. Malmsten unfortunately does precisely that, from time to time, albeit a very witty schnock, with razor-sharp phrasings and an elegant style.



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events - B. Siberling 2004

I clearly remember reading this with my now-seventeen-year-old, when she was the age the ten-year-olds are now. We never moved on to part 2 as we felt we had had enough misery after the first book.

The current ten-year-olds felt pretty much the same about the film, it turned out. 
I congratulated myself to not having insisted on reading the book with them. 
There are heaps of other, funnier books to read.

Pictures were beautiful, however.





Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Johnny Depp Retrospektivt - Steven Daly

A rather perfunctory inventory of the Depp filmography, this was! 
As a long-time Depp-devotee, I still appreciated the photos. Johnny Depp will always be Johnny Depp to me, I guess. (Or so I thought, until he pathetically divorced his wife for a 20-year-old blonde...)

Horrible translation, though. Do not read in Swedish.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Epic - C. Wedge 2013

In my opinion, kids' films can do without creative boldness, since their audience automatically renews itself every decade or so. That doesn't mean all kids' films stick to conventions, but this one certainly does.

However, as the mother of you-tube-aged pre-teens, I no longer really have to sit through these! 

(So why did I?? Why couldn't I just let well alone, and watch something else, instead?)

To be noted, though : On the (very!) same subject-matter, 'Arthur et les  Mini-Moys' is heaps better!!




Sunday, November 16, 2014

Seriously... I'm Kidding - Ellen De Generes

I'm just as much an Ellen-fan as the next person, and most likely this would have had me in stitches coming off a stage or a TV-set.

Unfortunately, emotion just isn't immediately transferable from one medium to another (which explains a lot about novels adapted on film). My theory is, this material isn't cerebral enough to stand for the thousandth of a second of afterthought that is inherent to reading. Un-funny.

Maria, who lent me and warned me against this book : I apologize for not trusting your reading skills. Again.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Les Garçons et Guillaume, A Table - G. Gallienne 2013

Adult Guillaume plays his teenage self as well as his mother in this autobiographical opus, based on his one-man-show on stage.

To be politically correct about it, Guillaume differs somewhat from traditional standards of masculinity, which leads his family to assume he is gay, thus adding spice to his upbringing in an aristocratic upper-class family.

This sounds insane for a pitch, but - amazingly - it works. It even works amazingly!
It was touching, funny, serious, ambitious and light, all at the same time.
Gallienne definitely deserved all the awards he walked away with from last year's Caesar Ceremony.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Andy Warhol Diaries - Warhol, edited by Pat Hackett

If this hadn't been such a heavy-weight, 1000-page-long opus, it would have made the perfect coffee-table book : Something to browse through absent-mindedly, read a page here and there to smile at Warhol's quirky way of expressing himself and the disconcerting mix of shrewdness and shallowness.

As it is, however, I find it rather indigest and feel rather sorry Hackett didn't edit more of it out while she was at it.

For the record, Warhol called Hackett every day from 1976 up to his death in 1987 and told her about the day before, in order for her to take it down. Entertaining, but - despite the compactness of the posts - very long.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wreck-it Ralph - R. Moore 2012

Did you ever stop to wonder what goes on after hours, inside a Video Arcade?

No, if truth be told, neither did I. For some reason, though, Disney thought we needed to find out.

This was pretty much the usual coming-of-age story of children's films - bad guy turning good by befriending cute little creature (a girl!) - with nothing particularly original nor particularly witty about it.

The one thing that did make me smile was the casting.

 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Att Föda Ett Barn - Kristina Sandberg

This is part one in a trilogy heavily tinted with modern history of the new social realism kind, focusing on a young woman of working class origin in smalltown Sweden. 
This segment starts out in 1938, introducing her as a pregnant young bride taking her first steps into adulthood.

The writing is skillful and ambitious, playing with narrative voices and points of view (although not with the effortlessness of a Virginia Woolf... But then, Woolfs are hard to come by!) all the while remaining an absorbing read. 

I most likely would have enjoyed it a lot more had I not found the main character such a whining martyr, impossible to either relish or relate to. I don't need disheartening stuff like this in November; it's already my least favourite time of the year. 
 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

1989 - Taylor Swift

As attentive readers might remember, I was not overly impressed with Swift's previous album, Red.

Applying the low-expectations principle therefore came quite naturally.

'1989' however was a pleasant surprise! I somehow reckon you have to be American to truly appreciate country music (just as I guess enjoying Johnny Hallyday necessitates a French upbringing) (and a minimum age of 50) whereas catchy pop tunes like these have no particular nationality.
That most of them are produced by (Swedish!) pop genius Max Martin obviously does them no wrong. (Though nor is it any guarantee, as the same was true for 'Red'.)

Nothing overly brilliant, but OK running music.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

OSS 117, Rio Ne Répond Plus - M. Hazanavicius 2009

Dujardin stars as the brainless hero of this true-to-life parody of a 1960s spy film.
Amazingly, it is just as well-wrought, kitsch and tongue-in-cheek fun as the first OSS 117-film, from 2006.

Dujardin is first-rate and the swinging sixties are life-like to perfection.

Infinitely superior to, and loads merrier than, 'The Artist'!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Gravity - A. Cuaron 2013

Most likely this was not at all the same film on my 32' TV screen as in the dark of a a wide-screen, 3D movie-theatre.
Even so, it had both me and my ten-year-old gnawing away at our nails! 
(And please note I am not referring to my film buff ten-year-old, but to the other one, who normally cannot be bothered with anything fictitious, watching nothing but documentaries and youtubers.)

Cuaron's astute choices in camera angles and sound effects underscore the isolation of Bullock's sole survivor space scientist. 
As for Bullock herself, absolutely nothing at least I had seen of her early career romcoms ever let on she had any skills of this kind!

Extra kudos to Cuaron for having mastered the art of Killing His Darlings and kept the film an agreeable 90 minutes long. 


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Medeltids-museum, Stockholm

 A life-sized medieval village (ok; almost life-size) to amble around in this prettily situated museum of Stockholm in the middle ages.

A kick for all ages.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Frozen - Buck & Lee, 2013

Disney it is, all right! The headstrong princess, perky animal secondary characters, bombastic songs and happy ending are all there, just as usual. 
Except this time, the film also passes the Bechdel-test swimmingly, which in itself constitutes huge progress and hopefully beckons brighter, less sexist times ahead.

It's Disney, like it or not, but it's top-notch Disney.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Klättercentret, Solna Stockholm

In my personal, yet humble, opinion, we humans were intended to keep our two feet on the ground most of our time awake (except possibly when relaxing in any comfortable couch that comes our way). 
I have come to realize, however, that not everyone agrees with me. Some even wildly enjoyed climbing 15 metres up the walls at Solna's Climbing Center.

Admittedly, the place was clean and the instructors friendly enough. The crowded carpets and the persistent smell of sweat I guess may be things you have to put up with when accompanying would-be mountain-climbers.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Full Monty - P. Cattaneo 1997

Still really cute and entertaining, although deeply sexist : The same story with female losers turning strippers would be either unthinkable or particularly seedy.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Skyfall - S. Mendes 2012

My ten-year-olds latest passion is James Bond-films...

The basic principle that makes this somehow vaguely acceptable and sets it apart from - say, 'World War Z' - is that the amazing stunts and highly unlikely immortality of the Bond character are part of the concept and therefore bother me much less than the Pitt-family-man-turned-reluctant hero.

Or at least, it doesn't automatically turn a James Bond-movie into a turn-off.

Or I don't think it does. Problem is I just don't like action films at all.
Shootouts and explosions.
I hope my daughter moves on to something more interesting in a very near future.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Match Point - W. Allen 2005

HOW does Jonathan Rhys Meyers not have a glorious career going on for him?
Admitted, he may not be any brilliant Laurence Olivier acting talent, but then so few are (I'm not going to mention Scarlett Johanssen's name)! It seems unfair to hold that against him, handsome as he is! Did he drown his own career in alcohol and public outbursts, or what happened??

PS There is a film surrounding him in here, as well, I seem to recall. 
Something about Rhys Meyers lusting for his future sister-in-law, which eventually turns into a terribly commonplace story (Remember 'A Place In The Sun'?).

No 'Annie Hall', but not bad either, as far as Woody Allens go.